Godmanchester Bomber Command Veterans Days 2016
The first event had clearly shown that our wonderful Tudor Queen Elizabeth School was far too small for the Veterans Day. So in 2016 we moved a couple of hundred yards along Cambridge Street to The Comrades Club. The club was set up following the end of the Great War and it will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary. The club allowed me to expand the event and include even more exhibitors, exhibitors are not charged as I see it as a chance for them to 'spread the word'. Some exhibitors are kind enough to donate raffle prizes. At this event were honoured to have Dambuster Johnny Johnson and Mary Stopes-Roe, Barnes Wallis's daughter. Here the are busily signing away, and in the other photos they are holding 'rounds' of bouncing bomb Dambuster Cheddar. All the veterans later took home a sizeable chunk.
Michele and I sat with Donald Jeffs (MacRoberts Reply XV Squadron) and Johnny Johnson. And Matthew Thorne, grandson of Drummond Wilson, shakes hands with the two great men.
Rusty Waughman and Taff Owen putting in another shift, signing books, pictures, prints and memorabilia. And posing with some bottles destined for the later goody bags.
We were honoured to have Ian Blair (Blenheim & Spitfire pilot) and Tom Neil (Battle of Britain Hurricane Pilot) attend the day, Ian became a poster boy during the war after flying his Blenheim back to its North African base after the pilot was killed. Despite never having piloted a plane he 'knew what to do as he'd watched the pilot', he made a perfect landing back at base and was sent onto to pilot training. Having completed light bomber training he was sent to a Squadron that had only Spitfires, he was told to take one up and see what he thought and if he wanted to he could go back to bombers... He took one up for a spin.... and stayed there. Tom was only downed once, when one of his fellow Hurricane pilots took his tail off. He flew with 249 and 42 Squadron and was based at RAF North Weald during the Battle of Britain. He ended the war having shot down 12 enemy aircraft and a further one during the Battle of Malta. In total he flew 141 sorties during the Battle of Britain, was awarded a DFC and Bar. The second photo shows Johhny Johnson, Taff Owen and Rusty Waughman with Heather Allsworth.
It was always a pleasure to have Donald Jeffs attend the day, Donald flew with XV Squadron at the same time as the Drummond wilson and his crew, even flying on the same raids. So it was wonderful that Drummond's son, Drummond Thorne, could meet and chat with him at the event.
I asked the extremely talented Rosie Ablewhite if she could do one of her 'then and now' pencil drawings for Donald. He absolutely loved it and it apparently took pride of place in his house from that day on. The RAF Signals Museum came long and on their display Donald found the type of radio he used to use all those years ago when flying on board MacRoberts Reply during WW2.
The Brampton scale Model Club put on their usual display of fantastic WW2 aircraft and the RAF Signals Museum also attracted a lot of attention.
Our Mayor Peter Morgan took time to visit the day and talk with the exhibitors. Marleen Jennissen, who is campaigning to have a XV Squadron Stirling piloted by Pilot Officer Ronald Barr, excavated so that the bodies of the airmen can be given proper funerals. We helped a small way with a 200 Euro donation to the cause, I also gave her a copy of a WW2 magazine with a picture Ron Barr on the front with the Squadron mascot, Pilot Officer Prune the Bulldog. Here she is with myself and Matthew Thorne, grandson of Drummond Wilson.
It was really busy day with long signing lines and lots of happy faces, both visitors and veterans had a great time.
Without these great people giving up their day it just wouldn't work, just some of the volunteers, Mick, Sandy and David, and then myself with Simon Connor-James, who looked after the 'crowd control'. My wife Michele, son James and daughter in law Hayley are also hugely supportive.
I also had a wedding picture of Drummond Wilson colourised and presented to his son Drummond Thorne, using the information from the newspaper clipping covering the wedding enabled us to work the colour of the dress and even the flowers Aymee carried.
Alice Taylor (WAAF) came along with some pictures and documents and discovered this, which she couldn't remember having seen before. It was written to her late husband who was a Short Sunderland pilot. What a wonderful letter and signed by such famous people, who were obviously dying for a 'fag'.
Michele chatting to Johnny Johnson and receiving a deserved bunch of flowers.
A post opportunity requested by the Hunts Post, sadly three of them are no longer with us. But we will remember them with gratitude and were honoured to share the day with them all.
Donald Jeffs grabs a photo with the Battle of Britain team who have supported the veterans day every year so far.
And at the end of the day a very special photograph of two great RAF airmen, who amazingly had never met before. Johnny Johnson (617 Squadron Dambusters) and Tom Neil (Battle of Britain Hurricane Pilot)
And the last person to leave the event, Ian Blair, the Blenheim and Spitfire pilot, he so enjoyed it, it took him 40 minutes to reach the exit.